Applying to St. Catherine's College, Oxford University

St. Catherine’s College, often referred to as Catz, is Oxford University’s youngest undergraduate college and one of its largest and most diverse communities. It treasures the traditional values of Oxford college life, but pursues a distinctly modern agenda.

St. Catherine’s is situated in an ideal location: very close to the city center, yet surrounded by meadows, parks and water. The Science Area and many University libraries and departments are nearby (including English, Law, Economics and Politics).

Catz offers a wide range of subjects, with a broadly even split between science and arts. The college is proud of its place at the forefront of innovation, research and contemporary culture. Its modern architecture (Grade I listed) and restful open spaces give the college a friendly and relaxed atmosphere.

How did you decide between Oxford and Cambridge?

Cambridge doesn't do history and politics, and I didn't want to do straight history or their social science course because I'm not interested in sociology or psychology particularly. I was all set for Cambridge though, until i went there and realised i really hated it, it was so small and unimpressive and i just didn't like it, so started looking at Oxford instead. (Profile 809)

Oxford does PPE cambridge does an inferior sps with sociology which sounds very boring. Oxford is a bigger city and generally like it more. (Profile 152)

For Comp Sci at cambridge you need to do Natural sciences in the first year, or 80% maths (something along those lines) and i didn't want to do that. (Profile 699)

Both oxford and cambridge courses start out very general in the first two years which appealed to me as i wasn't sure which field of engineering i was most interested in and so thought was best to go somewhere where i could look at different aspects. Modern engineering problems tend to be very diverse and require an understanding of all types eg civil, electronic, mechanical etc, so thought a breadth of knowledge would be useful later. (Profile 751)

Why did you apply to St. Catherine’s College?

I wanted to go somewhere big and modern (so all the plumbing worked!), and St Catz is cool and outside the town, but nice and big. (Profile 809)

St Catz is less formal than the other colleges, it also seemed more international (Profile 1028)

Knew people from my school had been there - i don't mean this in an etonian type "oh we always get in there" way, more in the sense that someone else has done it before so its do-able. plus st. catz has the biggest bar of all the colleges and prob one of the best social scenes, very sporty too which i'm into. (Profile 751)

3 years accomodation, very close to computing labs, and reasonably close to centre of town. (Profile 699)

Modern, forward-looking and very laid-back (Profile 366)

Had spoken to a tutor there and heard that they were lacking german applicants (Profile 286)

What was your general impression of St. Catherine’s College and any other colleges you visited?

Interviews were the first time I had been to Oxford, and when I first arrived I thought, 'Why the hell did I apply to St Catz?'. But once you've been there for an hour, you realise it is an absolutely wonderful place with a great atmosphere. The architecture you thought was horrible starts to look amazing, so I'd recommend it to anyone. I visited certain other colleges when I was there, and they were no where near as friendly as St Catz. (Profile 497)

It was lovely, though i did go to an old college and it was magical St Catz was nice because it was so well set out and organised. (Profile 809)

St Catz - nice, modern, I liked the JCR; St Johns - pretty, but somewhat shabby inside - same for merton (Profile 699)

Very relaxed and laid back (not like most of them i think). All the staff and students, applying and already there, were very friendly. Not as impressive looking as some of the other colleges but the atmosphere is the best i've seen. There were a lot of state school applicants there. (Profile 446)

Really nice place. Some call it a concrete block. I like it anyway it the people who make the place not the buildings. (Profile 152)

I loved St Catz - it has very modern architecture that I couldn't get enough of.

University College (my second college) was also really nice. Very old and big buildings. (Profile 1028)

Describe the day-to-day aspects of living in the college. If you stayed in college, how was the accommodation? How about the food?

- Accommodation: My room was really nice, it was quite big and had windows all down one side with very exciting blinds in them. There was a sink in there too. The staircase was nice, there was a kitchen shared by about 10. The common room had a massive TV and a games room with poole and stuff in which was cool.

- Food: Yes, it was very nice, well i say nice, it was standard food considering they were catering for so many people, but obviously some of it was a bit gross. In general though they gave you loads and it was nice. (Profile 809)

- Accommodation: All modern buildings, 1st year accomodation is a bit basic, 2nd year is pretty swish with ensuite showers/toilets and your own fridge

- Food: There is hall, which is a 3 course meal for about 3 quid, which is bloody excellent (where i live in ripoff south london, £3 wouldn't buy half a damn sandwich, so i was well impressed), then there is scaf which is canteen style food where you choose, generally less healthy but decent  (Profile 751)

- Accommodation: Big rooms, with a washbasin in the room (some people had smaller rooms with no washbasin). Lots of storage space, bed, desk, couple of chairs. One wall was entirely a window, which was nice, but cold (I think my heating wasn't working, as no one else found their room cold).

- Food: Pretty good, with a wide choice. Self service breakfast and lunch, and served dinner. (Profile 699)

- Accommodation: Rooms were big. They were built in the sixties and i'm pretty sure that all the original furniture is still in there. the bed was comfy but quite low off the floor, it didn't cause any problems though. They all had internet and phone connections and mine had a sink.

- Food: Good (Profile 446)

- Accommodation: The room was small, but had a huge window filling an entire wall (yes - floor-to-ceiling, wall-to-wall!) that looked over the quad, which made up for the size.

- Food: Excellent (Profile 497)

Any thoughts on the tutors/students at St. Catherine’s College?

- Tutors: They seemed really helpful and approachable, and pretty normal which was shocking!! They were friendly and nice.

- Students: They seemed nice too, very helpful (though they were being paid to be so) and gave us lots of information and help which i frequently needed. They organised a few things to do in the evenings too which were fun. Seemed to work hard though.  (Profile 809)

- Tutors: Friendly, not at all intimidating.

- Students: Somewhat disinterested, but not unpleasant. (Profile 699)

- Tutors: Very friendly

- Students: Very normal and down to earth. No, really! (Profile 366)

- Tutors: The first one (the CompSci tutor) seemed quite scary! But I think that was just his technique.. the others were really friendly and helpful.

- Students: Didn't seem to do much (no offence). At many other colleges, the JCR committee seemed to arrange loads of things for applicants to do, but they didn't. They didn't speak to us either and just sat by themselves watching videos... We didn't really mind though! (Profile 497)

- Students: college has a good vibe, generally always up for a bit of a party or "shirt lash" (Profile 751)

What questions were you asked during your St. Catz interview(s)?

[Engineering Science] all applying maths and physics to problems, writing expressions for things a bit of circuit analysis- there was no chit chat, just hello- sit down, now solve this.(Profile 751)

[Philosophy, Politics and Economics (PPE)] Cold War questions, democracy, human rights, do we have free will, morality questions. Game theory. (Profile 152)

[History (modern) and Politics] In the history interview they asked me about the essay I'd submitted (about Germany) and the period in general and in its context, and linked it to the rest of Europe and the future of Germany. It was ok, felt good because it was about something I was comfortable talking about. For politics they asked everyone about the same two areas, world government and why we obey the law. I thought this was hard and kinda harsh, it seemed more at home in a law or PPE interview. But everyone was in the same boat so it wasn't so bad.

They asked about the ways leaders try to unify people (I started talking about politics and Sarah Palin and then realised it was a history interview), and about why communism is so repressive. For politics they asked me about the EU which I've never studied so that wasn't too good, and about traffic lights, should we go through red ones. The questions didn't seem too bad which made me think they were going easy on me and no way would i get in. (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] I was given a piece of literature, either in English or the target language, given 20 minutes to read it and then asked questions that tested my analysis of it. Then we had general conversations in the target language for about 10 minutes, and discussed other literature I’d read, either in english or a foregn language. (Profile 286)

Do you have any advice for future Catz applicants in terms of preparation?

[Engineering Science] Have all your A level game down - thats all there is to it. The interviewers are not trying to "catch you out" they want to find out how good you are, which they can only do by asking questions based on what you know. So all the maths problems will start with something based on A level material and then build on it. Dont worry about slick answers to stuff like "why do you want to study engineering"- the tutors are academics, ie they don't care about banter/chat just how well wire up your neurons are - stick to the maths and physic theory. (Profile 751)

[Computer Science] Make sure you have answers for the obvious questions - why Oxford, why this course. Try lots of maths based questions - look at the ones on the oxford computer science website, as i think one of them actually came up in my interview. (I didn't do this much, but it would have been much easier had I done so). (Profile 699)

[History (Modern) and Politics] Read around your A level topics for history, particularly if you send in a school essay. Make sure you've read all the books you mention in your personal statement and know at least something about areas of interest you've mentioned. Think about arguments and counter arguments for things you read and research. Don't worry too much!! (Profile 809)

[Modern Languages] Write down any foreign literature you’ve read/studied as this gives thyem something to talk about in the interview, approach the foreign language speaking part as u might do a oral exam - show off how fluent you are. (Profile 286)